View the prototypes from POV Hackathon 4 »

Over the past year, POV has brought together visionary filmmakers and inventive technologists to “re-imagine the documentary for web” in a single weekend. And now that the fourth edition of POV Hackathon has concluded — you can get a glimpse of the process in this social media recap — we’re excited to share the prototypes from the five teams that participated, and give you the opportunity not only to explore them, but also to learn more about how the team’s created the prototypes under an impossible deadline, including a technology list and source code.

In most cases, the team members did not know each other before their participation. Find out more about the POV Hackathon process and future calls for participants »

Start viewing the prototypes from POV Hackathon 4 »


Participants’ Choice Award winner


Click on the image to interact with the Abstraction prototype, developed at POV Hackathon. (This prototype is best viewed in Chrome.)

Launch the demo »

Team: Vanessa Gould, Smriti Keshari, Maria Rabinovich, Gil Talmi.

About the Project: Does a single image look the same to everyone? Can music take the universal into the personal? Each person’s experience will be as individual as their fingerprint. With this app the user becomes the explorer in an ongoing immersive experiment, playing with the perceived boundaries between image and music: to give the abstract meaning.

Technology: This prototype was built with HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and jQuery and Heroku, a free cloud-based web host, to serve our webpages and database. All transitions, transition effects and animations were written with jQuery and CSS. The video and audio content is stored on the server and called via the script based on a list of selected video and music pieces.

Vanessa Gould (Credit: Solly Granatstein)

Vanessa Gould (Cinematographer / Editor) directed/produced Peabody Award–winning Between the Folds, broadcast on Independent Lens and in dozens of countries worldwide. Recently, she’s produced for the Showtime forthcoming series Years of Living Dangerously, and is in production on a feature documentary. She’s on the jury of several festivals and the Emmys.

» Production Company Website
» Between the Folds Film website

Smriti Keshari (Credit: Forest Woodward)

Smriti Keshari (Cinematographer) is a ?lm producer, photographer and storyteller. Smriti weaves her personal narrative of adventure and multiculturalism into all of her projects. Her keen introspection on nuance and connectedness has manifested through a wide array of work, including feature-length documentaries (Food Chains feat. Eva Longoria & Eric Schlosser, Bigger), adventure sports programming (ESPN, X Games, Sur?ng 28 States: India) and photojournalism.

» Portfolio Website
» Follow @kesharis on Twitter
» Food Chains
» Sur?ng 28 States: India

Maria Rabinovich

Maria Rabinovich (UI Designer / Developer) is an artist and developer interested in novel experiences afforded by new communication technologies. She likes to think about how these experiences frame information and effect our relationship to our devices and each other. She loves hackathons and building rapid prototypes to experiment with ideas.

» Portfolio Website
» Follow @mariarabinovich on Twitter

Gil Talmi (Credit: Smriti Keshari)

Gil Talmi (Composer) is a ?lm composer with a focus on socially conscious projects. Gil’s music can be heard in a variety of award winning ?lms such as the upcoming Savannah, starring James Caviezel and Sam Shepard and the Peabody award winning documentaries Between The Folds and Who Killed Chea Vichea as well as New Year Baby, winner of the Amnesty International Movies That Matter Award.

» Portfolio Website
» Company Website

Approaching the Elephant


Click on the image to interact with a demo of the Approaching the Elephant prototype developed at POV Hackathon.

Launch the prototype »

Team: Sonna Kim, Alexander Khost, Amanda Wilder.

About the Project: Explore a year in the lives of young children at a “free school” (where rules are created democratically) through interlocking video that offers multiple narratives.

After reading the initial quote, click anywhere on the page to see the interactive site. Since this is a prototype, there are four sample scenes, the actual project will have many more.

Approaching the Elephant Film Website »
Follow @ApproachtheE on Twitter »
Follow Approaching the Elephant on Facebook »


  • HTML5 & CSS3: The basic building blocks for building a website.
  • JavaScript & jQuery: Used to make the site interactive.
  • Popcorn.js: A JavaScript library used for integrating the web into video production.
  • Google Fonts: Used for custom, web-friendly fonts.
  • Dropbox: Used to share files between members of the team.
  • Final Cut Pro: Video-editing software.

Sonna Kim
Sonna Kim
Interactive Art Director New York City Sonna Kim is a visual designer and musician with experience creating interactive applications and websites for Fortune 100 companies and startups. She is also a Juilliard alum and has performed at major festivals in the US and abroad.

Alexander Khost

Alexander Khost is a father, artist, educator, and web developer. His work focuses on collaboration through non-coercive processes and a positive community impact through actual hands-on experiential learning and play. Khost founded the Teddy McArdle Free School upon which the documentary Approaching the Elephant is based.

» Portfolio Website
» Alexander Khost on LinkedIn
» Follow @akhost on Twitter

Amanda Wilder

Amanda Wilder is a filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. Her short film subjects include toil textile artist Richard Saja and Mayah, a girl unschooled on a farm in Vermont. Approaching the Elephant will be Wilder’s first feature. The documentary was recently selected for IFP Labs, IFP’s year-long mentorship program.

» Follow @AmandaWilder on Twitter
» Follow @ApproachtheE on Twitter

The Cannon and the Flower


Click on the image to interact with a demo of the The Cannon and the Flower prototype developed at POV Hackathon 4.

Launch the demo »

Team: Richard Koci Hernandez, Geri Migielicz, Jeremy Rue.

About the Project: Chopin’s music is hundreds of years old, but Dang Thai Son and Madame Lien’s fierce determination give Chopin new meaning. Beyond making a documentary, we wanted to make it interactive so that people all over the world can be inspired by this story and this music – and create a brand-new interpretation using Instagram.

The Cannon and Flower Film Website »
Story4 Production Company »


  • jQuery: To create the scrollable narrative.
  • D3: To build charts and visualizations.
  • MediaElement.js: To embed videos.
  • SoundManager 2: To embed audio files.
  • Modernizr: To check browser compatibility.

Richard Koci Hernandez

Richard Koci Hernandez is a national Emmy Award winning visual journalist and an Assistant Professor of New Media at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He worked as a photojournalist and Multimedia Producer at the San Jose Mercury News for 15 years. His work has appeared in Salon, Wired, The New York Times, a National Geographic book and international magazines.

» Portfolio Website
» University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Faculty Profile
» Follow @koci on Twitter
» Company Website

Geri Migielicz

An Emmy award- and Pulitzer prize-winning visual journalist and co-founder of Story4, a multimedia production studio, Geri Migielicz is the Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Professional Journalism at Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Journalism, in the Department of Communication. She teaches multimedia. Geri served as Director of Photography at the San Jose Mercury News from 1993 to 2009. Under Geri’s direction, the Mercury News garnered all the major national awards for photo editing and photo usage, making the paper a destination for the leading talent in the photojournalism industry because of its innovation in web and print storytelling.

» Company Website
» Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Journalism Faculty Profile
» Follow @gmigielicz on Twitter

Jeremy Rue

Jeremy Rue is a Lecturer of digital storytelling at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He’s worked as a multimedia producer, a photojournalist, a print reporter and as a web developer/programmer.

» Follow @jrue on Twitter
» University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Faculty Profile
» Portfolio Website
» Follow on Github

The Dreamtrain Project


Click on the image to interact with a demo of the The Dreamtrain Project prototype developed at POV Hackathon 4.

Launch the demo »

Team: Steven Melendez, Cori Schattner, Lily Virginia.

About the Project: Part interactive documentary, part music video, part diary, The Dreamtrain Project creates a platform for artists to dialogue with their audience by creating a connection between the content the artist puts out on social media and her work. Using the song Dreamtrain as a model, users are invited to explore the different inspirations behind the lyrics and song.


  • Git: An open-source version control system for source code.
  • Heroku: For free web hosting.
  • Popcorn.js: An open-source tool to synchronize HTML audio and video with other events on webpage.
  • Handbrake: An open-source tool to convert audio and video files to web-friendly formats.
  • Dropbox and Google Drive: Free tools to allow developer, designer and musician to easily share files.
  • Google Fonts: A collection of free, web-friendly fonts.
  • Google Maps: For free, embeddable and customizable maps.
  • Facebook Comments: A free, embeddable commenting tool using Facebook logins for authentication.

Steven Melendez (Photo: Casey de Pont/WNYC)

Steven Melendez is a programmer-journalist on the data news team at WNYC. Having previously worked as a developer and reporter, he holds an MS in journalism from Northwestern University and a BA in computer science from Harvard University.

» Company Website
» Follow @smelendez on Twitter

Cori Schattner (Photo: Rochelle Schattner)

Cori Schattner is an interactive designer, strategist, and multimedia raconteur. She has executed award-winning interactive TV applications for brands including Lipton and Dove. Currently she’s responsible for architecting a supply flow for integrating eBook learning into K-12 classrooms.

» Follow @CoriSchattner on Twitter
» Portfolio Website

Lily Virginia (Credit: Forest Woodward)

Lily Virginia is a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter. She came to the POV Hackathon through her interest in the audience/performer relationship and how that can be changed through technology. She currently is wrapping up her debut album and be found performing live around NYC and/or in your living room.

» Portfolio Website
» Follow on Tumblr
» Follow @lilyvirginia on Twitter

The Very Semi-Serious Humor Lab


Click on the image to interact with a demo of The Very Semi-Serious Humor Lab prototype developed at POV Hackathon 4.

Launch the demo »
View the source code »

Team: Mark Catalano, David Chapman, Bob Mankoff, Joanna Sokolowski, Andrew Sprouse, Leah Wolchok.

About the Project: The Very Semi-Serious Humor Lab aims to be an interactive deconstruction of the beloved New Yorker cartoons that will encourage viewers to examine the science, psychology and philosophy of what makes us laugh.

Follow @VerySemiSerious on Twitter »
Follow Very Semi-Serious on Facebook »
Very Semi-Serious Film Website »
Very Semi-Serious Kickstarter Campaign (completed) »


  • Meteor JS:Our app is built using the Meteor JS environment, which is what allowed us to create a front-to-back JavaScript application. Meteor uses MongoDB as a data store. The team had never used Meteor on a project before and while it initially seemed risky to try something new, we felt it was in the spirit of the Hackathon to try new things and take a few calculated risks. It should also be mentioned that the Meteor Development Group provides a free hosting environment for Meteor apps to encourage developers to build them and we are using that hosting environment for this project.
  • MongoDB: The datastore where we keep the cartoons and the captions. Feeds out JSON so it plays nice with our front-to-back JavaScript.
  • JavaScript: Our app is built with JavaScript front to back. This means that not only are we using JavaScript on the client side but also on the server side.
  • Node: The server that sends our app to the rest of the world.
  • CSS3: We used a few CSS3 effects for animating elements and making smooth transitions for hover effects.
  • HTML5: Sockets and magic. HTML5 is at the core of everything here. HTML5 audio and video elements were used a lot.
  • Photoshop: For building out the illustrations and graphic elements of the site.
  • After Effects: We needed to composite a few video files together to create the cartoon desk effect as a part of the intro video.
  • Final Cut Pro: Editing down all the sound effects for the site so we would have video and audio synced if we ever wanted to use live video vs. the illustrated graphic of Bob Mankoff.
  • Buzz.js: We abstracted the HTML5 audio API away by using Buzz, which worked well.
  • jQuery: For DOM manipulation.
  • GitHub: None of this would be possible in the time that we had if it weren’t for great developer collaboration tools. Github gives us a rock-steady sharing platform to work from.

Mark Catalano

Mark Catalano is one of the founders of Ronik Design, a digital product design shop in Brooklyn. Mark’s background is in development and usability research. Some day Mark hopes to visit the Moon, but for now the Internet will have to do.

» Portfolio Website
» Follow @markcatalano on Twitter
» Company Website

David Chapman

David Chapman is a designer and developer living and working in Brooklyn. He owns cats, bicycles, yellow-paged books and other Brooklyn-type things.

Bob Smiling at Desk-240
Bob Mankoff

Bob Mankoff is the cartoon editor of The New Yorker. Before he succeeded Lee Lorenz as editor, Mankoff was a cartoonist for the magazine for twenty years. He founded the online Cartoon Bank, which has every cartoon since the magazine’s founding. He is the author of the books The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way to Enhance Your Creativity and the forthcoming memoir How About Never– Is Never Good for you? My Life in Cartoons.

Joanna Sokolowski (Photo: Michael H. Raines)

Joanna Sokolowski is the associate producer for Very Semi-Serious. She is currently in production on The Ovarian Psycos with her filmmaking partner, Kate Trumbull-LaValle. The film is supported by ITVS, Pacific Pioneer Fund and Women Make Movies. She received her MA in Social Documentation at the UCSC and was the recipient of the Human Rights Center fellowship.

» The Ovarian Psycos
» Still Time

Andrew Sprouse

Andrew Sprouse is a Brooklyn based software developer who most recently he led the development of the latest iteration of

» Company Website
» Company Website
» Follow @asprouse on Twitter

Leah Wolchok (Photo: Geraldine Lee)

Leah Wolchok is a director and producer who received the inaugural TFI Documentary Fund grant for her first feature documentary, Very Semi-Serious. She co-produced the Independent Lens documentary Ask Not. She received a BA in English from Yale and an MA in Documentary Production from Stanford.


POV Hackathon mentors play a critical role in providing feedback, project management, therapeutic counselling… whatever is needed at any time to help the teams get their prototypes presentation-ready over the course of the weekend. At POV Hackathon 4, three mentors (two of whom where previous POV Hackathon participants) shared their expertise with the teams, and we can’t thank them enough for their time and for sharing their wisdom.

Sumin Chou

Sumin Chou is Co-Founder and Principal of Concentric Studio and oversees strategic direction and visual design for all projects. An interactive industry veteran, Sumin previously served as design director for the New York Times, where he oversaw all interactive design projects. He has also held senior creative positions at Time Inc. and several top interactive agencies, having worked on a number of high profile brands including British Airways, Dewar’s Scotch Whiskey, Deutsche Bank, New York Magazine, Real Simple, among others.

Sumin’s work has been recognized by several leading industry organizations including Communication Arts, Print Magazine, Society of Publication Design (SPD) and the ADDY Awards. He has also served as a judge for the Art Director’s Club, SPD and The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (Webby Awards).

Sumin received a B.A. from Oberlin College, majoring in Studio Art/Art History and East Asian Studies. He also studied composition at the New York Studio School, typography at the Cooper Union School of Art and taught drawing and painting at the Brooklyn Museum Studio School.

» Company Website
» Follow @WeAreConcentric on Twitter
» Follow @suminchou on Twitter

Parker Mitchell

In 2000, while at McKinsey, Parker Mitchell co-founded Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB). EWB has mobilized 35,000 members, two million volunteer-hours and 25M$ to address the root causes of poverty in Africa. This produced awards including Canada’s Top40Under40, Ernst and Young’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year, and two Honorary Degrees.

In 2011 he stepped away from EWB, packed a backpack and began a sabbatical exploring metaphorical frontiers. In May he moved to NYC to build his next contribution to a better world.

» Personal Website
» Follow @parkerewb on Twitter
» Engineers Without Borders Canada

Lam Thuy Vo

Lam Thuy Vo is an interactive editor for Al Jazeera America, where she leads a team of multi-platform journalists.
Before coming to Al Jazeera, she was a multimedia producer for NPR’s Planet Money where she created interactives, data visualizations, videos and photographs to explain economic issues in visual ways. She managed and produced one of the show’s most viewed online projects “Unfit for Work – The startling rise of disability in America,” experimented with the use of video for the group’s live show “Is America Screwed?,” and produced reported animated gifs for a series about manufacturing, hoping to transform gifs from a humorous gimmick into a storytelling vehicle.

» Personal Website
» Follow @lamthuyvo on Twitter


The prototypes were presented to a public audience and a jury that represents a cross-section of the documentary and technology industries. POV Hackathon 4’s jury consisted of Cynthia López (POV | American Documentary Inc.), Marc Schiller (BOND Strategy and Influence) and Brian Storm (Mediastorm).

If you missed any of them, here are links for quick access to the POV Hackathon 4 prototypes:

» Abstraction (Participants’ Choice Award winner)
» Approaching the Elephant
» The Cannon and the Flower
» The Dreamtrain Project
» The Very Semi-Serious Humor Lab

Want to see more? View the prototypes from POV Hackathon 1 (August 2012), POV Hackathon 2 (January 2013), and POV Hackathon 3 (April 2013).

Keep up with developments at POV Hackathon: Subscribe to POV’s documentary blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs!

Published by

POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 400 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.